School Safety For America’s Youngest Students Means More Officers, More Guns
The same week protests erupted around the nation over the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, 800 school police officers attended a training conference on school violence in a nearby central Florida hotel.
The conference, organized by the Alabama-based National Association of School Resource Officers, gave these school officers lessons on safety, advocacy and warning signs in troubled teens. Attendees chose from a wide array of sessions and events, ranging from a gun safety presentation organized by the National Rifle Association to simulated laser-gun training. Defense vendors were there, too, hawking everything from non-lethal munitions to tourniquets to radio transmitters.
How do we keep our children safe from violence? It’s a question the country has been asking itself over and over again in the past year, which has witnessed the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary and the fierce debates over Martin’s death. For schools that educate even the youngest Americans, the answer, increasingly, is to arm up.
Traditionally, school districts have paid for guards in middle and high schools. Because, as at Columbine in Colorado and Red Lake, an Indian reservation in Minnesota, those higher schools have been primarily where the shootings have happened. But in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, a school filled with young children, attention is now being increasingly directed to elementary schools as well.
NASRO, a voluntary membership organization for school resource officers, formed in 1991 with the goal of training officers how to function in schools. The group grew tremendously in the wake of the Columbine school shooting but diminished around 2009 as the recession sank in. NASRO’s conference has been a primary means for training officers: in 2008, 1,200 SROs attended the conference; the next year, it fell to 700. Last year, NASRO could only fill 45 classes. In 2013, that number spiked to 92, its director Mo Canady said.
At this year’s conference, aspiring school officers could take classes in marksmanship, crisis management and bullying prevention. They could learn about the “proven benefits of non-confrontational interview and interrogation techniques with the millennial generation.” They could also participate in “juvenile justice Jeopardy” and a boisterous round of karaoke. But the conference’s linchpin in the summer after Newtown was “active shooter response” training.
Since the Newtown shooting, nearly every state has introduced some form of school-safety legislation. These proposals include emergency planning, facility upgrades and funding for new therapists. About 30 states have weighed measures to require armed guards of some sort in schools. At least seven have passed laws to allow approved teachers or other volunteers to be armed while on school grounds. Many districts are adding armed security officers on their own, without state or federal funding or mandates. Many of those officers come from local police departments, and are paid by the school district, the police department or through a cost-sharing arrangement between the two entities. And the Department of Justice announced new grants in late September to fund the creation of 356 new school resource officers.
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originally posted October 7, 2013 7:30 AM • Joy Resmovits, Huffington Post – Joy.firstname.lastname@example.org